Do Penguins Have Ears? [Can They Hear?]

Yes, penguins do have ears. You might not find them visible like a human ear, but the internal structure is completely present. Being a marine bird, the absence of an outer ear flap is one of the adaptations for swimming. This makes their bodies more streamlined.

Looking closely at the sides of the penguin’s head, you would see two holes on both sides that feathers would densely cover. To understand the structure and functioning of penguins’ ears, it is important to remember that the ears are specially designed to help them swim well without any hearing damage.

Moreover, the hearing sense works in water as well. Let us dive deep into the details to justify the special structuring of the penguin ear. 

Do All Penguins Have Ears?

Penguin

They all have ears but are not as visible as other animals. However, the hearing capability of penguins is not as developed as that of other marine animals. There are a few evident points to talk about regarding the level of hearing in penguins:

  • Penguins use their ears to identify their offspring when they return to shore. They can recognize the sound of the young one among hundreds of them.
  • They can listen even underwater. They are believed to be among those marine animals who react to sounds for navigation and locating prey.
  • One of the studies on the African Penguin says that it has a hearing range of 100 to 15000 Hz with a peak sensitivity between 400 to 6000 Hz.
  • An amazing fact about the hearing of penguins is that they can identify between harmless and dangerous sounds even when asleep.
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Do Emperor Penguins Have Ears?

The emperor penguins have their ears on the side of their heads. They are in the yellow patch and fade into the white feathers of the breast of the penguins.

Their ears are flapless and open. They produce sounds similar to a trumpet. Surprisingly, each emperor penguin has its own unique frequency.

How Many Ears Does a Penguin Have?

Like other animals, penguins also have two ears, although you will not find any ear flaps. They are present on either side of the head, hidden in the dense white feather coat.

The ears are in the form of holes and are just visible when you peep in by pushing the feather coat aside. The outer auricle is not there to avoid drag during swimming.

What Do the Penguins’ Ears Look Like?

Outwardly flat, the ears of penguins have a complicated and adaptive structure inside. The internal ear study of the penguin’s ear tells us how the middle ear functions, especially during diving and swimming.

Ear structure of penguin
3D image of ear structure of an African Penguin
Source: https://asa.scitation.org/

External Structure

Outwardly, it has almost no appearance. The outer auricle is not there. You will have to look for the ear by brushing aside the feathery skin.

Middle ear

It is located in the lower back of the skull. Inside, the skull can be divided into three sections. The inner ear, the middle ear, and the external tube-like canal are known as the auditory canal.

When the acoustic noise reaches the middle ear, the columella ossicle in the middle ear receives the sound and takes it forward.

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From the columella footplate, the sound waves are transported to the oval window, where they enter the inner ear, which vibrates.

The next part, the round window, reduces the vibration. The vibrations are then converted into electric signals for the nerve cells.

Inner Ear

The inner ear has a vestibular system with semicircular canals. The basal ampulla, which has the receptor organ, rests here.

The Eustachian tube, which is long and narrow, is thought to compensate for pressure balance in the middle ear.

Where Are Penguin Ears Located?

As discussed above, the ears are hidden on both sides of the head in the form of holes beneath the feather coat. Here are some examples of penguin ears in different species.

penguin ear
Penguin Ear Location. Source: Tiktok
Type of PenguinLocation of the Ear
King PenguinOrange patch extending to the breast via a thin strip
Emperor PenguinYellow patch fading into white feathery breast
Chinstrap PenguinNarrow black band or strap of feathers from ear to ear

Can Penguins Hear Well?

The hearing of the penguins is evident from different resources, but if you compare the hearing to marine animals, it is not as good as those of marine animals.

The penguins can recognize hundreds of sounds from their relatives in their own domain. They even hear underwater, which is being researched, and the penguins have shown vivid responses.

FAQ

Do penguins have big ears?

If you are talking about the inner ear of the penguin, yes, it has a big and complex structure in the lower part of the skull. But there is no visible ear on the outer body to be claimed as big or small.

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Moreover, the holes that are present on either side of the head are small when you brush the feathers aside.

Do penguins hear without ears?

Yes, they hear, and they are certainly not without ears. It is just that the ears are designed to make their body streamlined and more friendly to swimming. Even with hidden ears, they hear well on the surface and underwater.

Do penguins have good hearing?

The hearing frequency range of penguins is between 600 and 4000 Hz, as research on an African penguin says. Another study shows that penguins can even hear and respond while sleeping, which could help them avoid predators.

Do penguins make noise?

Yes, they do. The sounds or noises made by them are called vocalizations. They have distinctive or identifiable sounds to help them find a mate for offspring. The Male and female penguins also have different sounds to utter. The video shows different noises made by penguins in line with their activities. 

Conclusion

Since the penguins hear well underwater also, they might be or must be under attack by anthropogenic noise. This is what you might call the human-induced noise of sonars, ships, and air guns. Hearing penguins is important to their life activities like mating, searching for food, and escaping predators.

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